Procedure

We usually begin our process with a conversation to generate ideas and share expectations about the painting. This can be accomplished in person, by phone, or email.

Once we have agreed upon a common concept, I meet with my client to photograph and measure the subject of the portrait in their home. I prefer to work in a relaxed atmosphere with candid imagery, so I encourage adults to allow children to dress themselves and move about freely. Colors and logos on clothing can be edited, but some of the more interesting paintings have come from kids in jeans or barefoot, blowing bubbles or dancing. Inside or out, I usually take three or more rolls of film. A $500 non-refundable deposit is required at this time for the portrait to proceed.

At my studio, I select the photos that convey the energy of my subject through their eyes, gesture, and body language. A small mock-up of the painting is made to scale. The portrait's dimensions, figure placement, and composition are designed to emphasize personality. One or more of these are presented to the client for approval. Color palette is decided at this point.

Once the photo mock-up is approved, I stretch a canvas on heavy-duty stretcher bars, wrapping the canvas around the sides and stapling it to the back of the stretcher. This is called a "gallery wrap": the sides of the portrait will be painted, wrapping the color around the edges so the painting does not have to be framed. The canvas is gessoed three times to size it, and the drawing is applied lightly.

I use a modern application of an old master idea, an oil dry-brush technique developed by Alfred DeCredico at the Rhode Island School of Design. Hazel Belvo, professor emeritus of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, taught it to me while I was working on my BFA at the University of Minnesota, and I have continued to develop it over the years. It is a resist method that juxtaposes realism with abstraction.

The old masters painted value studies using one color with white and then added transparent color glazes to build a full range of color. I complete a dry-brush value rendering in one to three colors on the sized canvas using oil paint directly from the tube. This technique is used in the realistic areas of the painting: head, exposed arms, hands, feet and some clothing (jeans). The painting dries for about a week, and is sanded with 220 sandpaper to expose the top surface of the canvas weave, revealing white dots that will accept a color wash.

Using no gel medium, transparent acrylic washes are applied to the value study to build color. The small amount of oil paint in the rendering resists the wash. Finally, opaque acrylic paint is applied to the non-rendered areas of the canvas in one or more abstract shapes. These shapes of flat color engage and enhance the three dimensional imagery, constructing a suitable compositional environment for my subject. The canvas edges are painted for finishing, and a light layer of acrylic varnish for oil and acrylic is applied.

The process takes about a month, depending on the number of commissions I have going in my studio.

Full payment (including shipping and insurance) is required for delivery.